> Martin Carthy > Songs > Arthur McBride and the Sergeant
> Tony Rose > Songs > The Recruiting Sergeant

Arthur McBride and the Sergeant / The Recruiting Sergeant

[ Roud 2355 ; G/D 1:78 ; Ballad Index PBB093 ; Bodleian Roud 2355 ; trad.]

Martin Carthy sang Arthur McBride and the Sergeant on his 1969 album with Dave Swarbrick, Prince Heathen; this was reissued in 2001 on the compilation The Carthy Chronicles. Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick also played this in 1976 as an instrumental on Dave Swarbrick's first solo album, Swarbrick, and played the song in 1992 on their video 100 Not Out. A live recording from Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, USA, from the early 1990s was included on their 2011 CD Walnut Creek. Martin Carthy wrote in the original album's sleeve notes:

I have always assumed that this highly subversive song was from East Anglia, but in fact I don't know. It is probably 18th century in origin and I learned it from Redd Sullivan, who sang it with great wavings of the arms—the folk world's Joe Cocker? The tune at the end is French.

A 1970 recording of Arthur McBride by Redd Sullivan can be found on the album of songs from the BBC radio series Folk on Friday.

The Exiles sang Arthur McBride in 1966 on their Topic album Freedom, Come All Ye.

Planxty sang Arthur McBride in 1973 on their first album Planxty. They noted:

Arthur McBride is an anti-recruiting song from Donegal. This version was collected by P.W. Joyce in his native Co. Limerick in the early 19th century and printed by him in his collection.

Dick Gaughan sang Arthur McBride in 1976 on the fundraiser album for the Folk Review magazine, The Second Folk Review Record.

Danny Spooner, accompanied by Mick Farrell, sang Arthur McBride in 1978 on their album Limbo. He noted:

Everyone admires the pacifist, especially when he proves his pacifism by beating his antagonist into the ground. There are a couple of versions of this one, and it has been recorded a number of times. It is on this record because after a fine night at the Dan O'Connell folk club an Irish lad said he'd buy a record if we recorded it. Quick as a flash, [Mick] Farrell agreed.

Tony Rose sang The Recruiting Sergeant on his 1982 album Poor Fellows. He noted:

The recruiting sergeant of the 18th and 19th centuries enjoyed a popularity roughly akin to that of an eelworm in a potato patch. To ensnare the unwary recruit he had to be capable of both silver tongued guile and ruthless skulduggery… only the desperate volunteered! But not everyone was taken in…! There's splendid irony in this most violent of anti-militaristic songs. This version is to be found in Roy Palmer's The Rambling Soldier and I'm indebted to the Somerset group White Cockade for bringing it to my notice.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang Arthur McBride on their 1989 Topic album Stolen Ground. This track was also included in 1994 on his Topic anthology A Short History of John Kirkpatrick where he noted:

During the 1960s the British magazine Folk Scene asked many leading singers to submit their favourite song. This was A.L. Lloyd's choice.

Chris Foster sang Arthur McBride in 2003 on his Tradition Bearers album Traces.

Mike Bosworth sang Arthur McBride in 2004 on his album of songs from the Sabine Baring-Gould Collection, By Chance It Was.

This version I learnt from the singing of Bert Lloyd. Sam Fone of Mary Tavy [in Devon] sang a very similar version titled Arthur Le Bride [which was collected in  1892 and can be found in Sabine Baring-Gould's Songs of the West].

Ewan McLennan sang Arthur McBride in 2010 on his Fellside album Rags & Robes. He noted:

The compelling story of this song seems to recur again and again in the traditional repertoires of man of the English-speaking countries—it was clearly an issue that was commonly experienced over the centuries. This particular version is from Ireland.

German duo The Hoodie Crows sang Arthur McBride on their 2016 CD On the Wing. They noted:

The story of Arthur McBride—cousin of the nameless narrator—is a true classic of Irish folk music. For our arrangement we pilfered from various sources, mainly Planxty and Paul Brady. If more people took the fight to the warmongers themselves and enjoy life to the full like Arthur McBride and his cousin, the world would be a better place for sure.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Arthur McBride and the Sergeant Tony Rose sings The Recruiting Sergeant

I once knew a fellow called Arthur McBride
And his pleasure was walking down by the seaside,
A-walking, a-talking, a-viewing the tide
Though the weather was pleasant and charming.

As we were a-walking down by the seaside
Who did we meet with but Sergeant McBride.
We determined to have a bit bathe in the tide;
It was all on a fine summer's morning.

So gay and so gallant we went on our tramp,
We met Sergeant Harper and Corporal Gramp
And the bonny little drummer who roused up the camp
With his row-dee-dow-dow in the morning.

And as we were a-walking down by the sea sand
Who did we meet with but Corporal Brand
And a little wee drummer called Arthur McDent,
A-Going to the fair in the morning.

“What ho, my good fellows,” the sergeant did cry,
“The same to you, sergeant,” we made to reply.
There was nothing more said and we made to pass by
All on that bright summer's morning.

“What ho, my good fellows, if you would enlist,
Ten guineas in gold I would slap in your fist
And a crown in the bargain to kick up the dust
And to drink the King's health in the morning.”

“Oh well it's now, my brave fellows, if you want to enlist
It's five golden guineas I'll clap in your fist.
Besides there's five shillings to kick up a dust
As you go to the fair in the morning.

“And it's then you will also go decent and clean
While score other fellows go dirty and mean,
While score other fellows go dirty and mean
And sup their bugoo in the morning.”

“Oh no, my good sergeant, we are not for sale,
Though we're fond of our country, your bribes won't avail.
Though we're fond of our country, we care not to sail,
For we are the boys of the morning.

[ “And if we were stupid and took your advance,
It’s right bloody slender would be our poor chance.
For you wouldn’t scruple to send us to France
Where we would get shot without warning.

“And you need not be talking about your fine pay
For all you have got is one shilling a day;
And as for your debt, oh, the drum pays your way
As you march through the town in the morning.

“And it’s no good you bragging to me of your clothes
For you’ve only the lend of them as I suppose.
And you dare say nothing for you well knows
That you would get flogged in the morning!” ]

“And you need not be talking about your fine clothes,
Why, you've just got the loan of them, as I suppose;
And you dare not sell 'em in spite of your nose
Or you would get flogged in the morning.”

“If you would insult me without any word,
I swear, by my king, I would draw my broadsword
And I'd run through your body as strength my affords
Ere you could breathe out the morning.”

“Oh well I'm blessed,” says the sergeant, “if I allow more of that,
From any coxcomb or cow-feeding brat.
And if you tip me any more of your chat
I'll run you through in the morning.”

But before they had time for to pull out their blades
Our whacking shillelaghs came over their heads.
And we did teach them that we with their blades
Did dampen their rage in the morning.

Oh we laid the little drummer as flat as a shoe,
We made a football of his row-dee-dow-doo.
The sergeant, the corporal, we knocked out the two
For we were the boys of the morning.

And as for the drummer, oh we diddled his pow,
And we made a football of his row-dee-dee-dow.
And into the tide we bid him to row
And bade them all a good morning.

And as for the weapons that hung by their side,
We flung them as far as we could in the tide.
“And the devil go with you,” says Arthur McBride,
“For spoiling our walk in the morning.”

Note: Martin Carthy sang the additional verses 6 and 7 shown in brackets on the Walnut Creek live CD.

Danny Spooner sings Arthur McBride

Well, I once knew a fellow called Arthur McBride,
He and I went a-strolling all by the seaside,
Looking for pleasure and what may betide,
And the weather was pleasant and charming.

Right gaily and gallant we went on our tramp,
We met Sergeant Harper and Corporal Gramp
And a little wee drummer who beat up the camp
With his row-dee-dow-dow in the morning.

“Well good morning, young good fellows,” the sergeant he cried,
“The same to you, sergeant,” was all our reply.
There was nothing more said and we went to pass by
And continue our walk in the morning.

“Well now, my young fellows, if you would enlist,
There's a guinea in gold as I'll smack in your fist,
And a crown in the bargain to kick up the dust
And drink the Queen's health in the morning.”

“Oh no, mister sergeant, we aren't for sale,
We'll make no such bargain and your bribe won't avail.
We're not sick of our country, we don't wish to sail,
Though your offer is pleasant and charming.

“For if we were so stupid to take your advance,
It’s right bloody slender would be our poor chance.
If you wouldn’t scruple to send us to France
Now to get us all shot in the morning.”

“Well now, you young braggarts, if you say one more word,
I'll swear, by the heir, to draw out my sword,
I'll run you all through with my strength will afford
So now, you young buggers, take warning!”

Well, we beat his old drummer as flat as a shoe
And made a football of his row-dee-dow-doo.
And as for the others, we knocked out the two,
Yes, we were the boys in that morning.

Then we took all the weapons that hung by their side,
And slung them as far as we could in the tide.
“The devil go with you,” says Arthur McBride,
“For spoiling our walk in the morning.”

Ewan McLennan sings Arthur McBride

Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride,
As we went a walking down by the seaside,

Now mark what followed and what did betide For it being on Christmas morning.

Out for recreation, we went on a tramp,
There we met Sergeant Napper and Corporal Vamp
And a little wee drummer, intending to camp,
For the day being pleasant and charming.

“Good morning, Good morning!” the sergeant did cry
“And the same to you gentlemen” we did reply,
Intending no harm but meant to pass by
For it being on Christmas morning.

But says he, “My fine fellows if you will enlist,
It's ten guineas in gold I will slip in your fist,
And a crown in the bargain for to kick up the dust
And drink the King's health in the morning.

“For a soldier he leads a very fine life
And he always is blessed with a charming young wife.
He pays all his debts without sorrow or strife
And always lives pleasant and charming.

“And a soldier he always is decent and clean
In the finest of clothing he's constantly seen
While other poor fellows go dirty and mean
And sup on thin gruel in the morning.”

“But,” says Arthur, “I wouldn't be proud of your clothes
For you've only the lend of them as I suppose.
And you dare not change them one night, for you know
If you do you'll be flogged in the morning.

“And although that we are single and free
We take great delight in our own company,
And we have no desire strange faces to see
Although that your offers are charming.

“And we have no desire to take your advance
All hazards and dangers we barter on chance
For you would have no scruples for to send us to France
Where we would get shot without warning.”

“Oh now!”, says the sergeant, “I'll have no such chat
And I neither will take it from spalpeen or brat.
For if you insult me with one other word
I'll cut off your heads in the morning.”

Then Arthur and I we soon drew our hods
And we scarce gave them time for to draw their own blades,
When a trusty shillelagh came over their heads
And bade them take that as fair warning.

And their old rusty rapiers that hung by their side
We flung them as far as we could in the tide.
“Now take them out, Devils!”, cried Arthur McBride
“And temper their edge in the morning.”

And the little wee drummer we flattened his pow
And we made a football of his row-de-dow-dow.
Threw it in the tide for to rock and to row
And bade it a tedious returning.

And we having no money, paid them off in cracks
And we paid no respect to their two bloody backs,
For we lathered them there like a pair of wet sacks
And left them for dead in the morning.

And now to conclude and to finish disputes
We obligingly asked if they wanted recruits.
For we were the lads who would give them hard clouts
And bid them look sharp in the morning.

(repeat first verse)

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard, with thanks to Ruth Bygrave and Wolfgang Hell for further suggestions and corrections.